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Should I pay my spiritual director? (Updated)

June 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Perspective, Spiritual Direction

I have found a spiritual director who is a Priest. I am so thankful for his direction and his time. However, I don't know how to repay him for the time he freely gives me each month. It is awkward to offer him cash, so I haven't. I don't want to insult him but I don't want to leave him feeling unappreciated either. I offer my prayers each day but I need to do more. Do Priests that are spiritual directors usually get paid by each person or is this part of their ministry that they are paid for by their diocese? It would be very uncomfortable but do I need to have this conversation with him? Would a monetary gift every few months or yearly be acceptable? What's the norm or is there one?

This is great news! As well, your instinct is clearly reflective of God’s work in you. The normal response to the grace of God is the gratitude. Further good news is that at least part of the answer to your question is laid out very clearly for us in scripture.

St. Paul in chapter five of his first letter to Timothy indicates that those who lead well, with respect to the souls in their care, are worthy of “double honor.”  This “honor” Paul speaks of is no less than material honor.  Yes, our priests and religious are often called to vows of poverty (diocesan priests are not required to take this vow).  However, this does not mean that they always have all that they need to live and carry out their work.  Lay people as well, who give of their time, often do so at the expense of career growth or other pursuits they might enjoy rather than spending their time serving us.  Regardless of where the money goes, our generosity is a reflection of the health of our souls and, for the health of our souls we should be particularly generous with anyone willing to invest their time in our spiritual well-being. With this foundation in place let’s break your question down into bite size pieces:

Should I pray for my spiritual director? Absolutely. In fact, since you have placed your soul in his care, it would be wise to make a significant commitment of prayer for him (or her as the case may be)! A decade of the rosary for his intentions might be a great place to start.

It seems awkward to give him cash, how should I handle this? Write a check or put the cash in a sealed envelope. As you conclude your meeting and you are about to exit, simply hand him the envelope and say, “this is for you.” If the priest is a religious and you are worried about temptation regarding money and their vow of poverty, simply write the check out his congregation and deliver it to him in the same manner as described above.

Are priests paid by their diocese to give spiritual direction? I am not aware of any priest, religious, or layperson that gets paid by their diocese to provide spiritual direction. Now, diocesan priests do get paid by their diocese or parish to administer the sacraments and perform the duties of a pastor which certainly includes spiritual direction. However, in my opinion this is as much an issue of the soul of the directee as it is the need of director. You would be hard pressed to find a priest or religious who is becoming wealthy from the work they do.

How much and how often should I give to my spiritual director? This depends on your means and the value of the service to you. Generosity can be reflected in giving very little if you have very little and giving a good deal if you have a great deal. I know of one instance where a woman received spiritual direction from a religious and decided to give a very large donation to her order. In the ordinary day to day world of spiritual direction something in the realm of $25 to $75 per meeting is normal. If your means would have you on the lower end of the scale and you feel bad about it, simply write a note of appreciation and indicate that you are giving what you can and that you have committed a specific prayer offering each week for your director. If you have any particular training or capability you can offer in appreciation (like bookkeeping, or produce from farming etc.) then you can offer that instead of or on top of any small cash gift.

Finally, the greatest gift you can give your director is to give yourself to God in this process. Be attentive, write down what he asks you to do, follow up specifically, be on time, respect his time, listen, pray, and be holy.

For an opportunity to learn more about spiritual direction and the interior life, click here.


Art for this updated post on whether one should pay theior spiritual director: unidentified graphic, provenance unknown. Feature image art: Ein ernstes Gespräch (A Serious Conversation), Ludwig Johann Passini, by 1903, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, the High Calling Seminary Preparation Program, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer, speaker and pilgrimage director who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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